Is the advertising agency business about to be swept up in a digital flood?

future of advertising

The Great Johnstown Flood of 1889

I read with much interest Fast Company’s fascinating article misnamed “The Future of Advertising” when the article is more about the future of the advertising agency business. And it’s worth more than a casual read for anyone in the agency business.

But the article missed a key point in my view, and it’s a question of scope.

We can relate the current reporting of our industry’s effort to get in-step with the digital revolution to news coverage of the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889 which wiped out the town and 2200 souls in western Pennsylvania. The Johnstown Flood was tragic and changed the local landscape quite a bit but it couldn’t compare with the Biblical Flood in Noah’s time. And Noah’s Flood is more in keeping with what’s hitting our world, not just the advertising industry. The Digital Flood that’s happening is of Biblical proportions, and the article didn’t do justice to the scope of what’s happening to the world we used to know.

Read some of our thoughts on the Creative Age here and the challenges facing marketing firms here.

digital world

Noah’s Ark in the great Genesis flood.

I would guess that we are about ten minutes into the Digital Flood with much uproar and consternation over the wet streets, creeks overflowing, and gushing downspouts we see. Our industry ponders when it all will end, not realizing we are just at the leading edge of Day One of the Digital Flood with nearly 40 more days to go.

That’s the scope I see. And I feel most agencies are not well prepared to handle a digital genesis flood.

We help our agency clients prepare for the Digital Flood by taking five actions:

  1. Narrow your focus and become experts in one niche and treat your market place as world-wide.
  2. Get your brand right, and make sure it’s in-step with where your best prospects want to go.
  3. Learn how to learn. Never let your agency stop learning by doing more partnering and collaborating. And make that learning process an agency priority.
  4. Learn how to relate because by relating the new things we see to past things that were familiar, we can handle the speed of change coming at us much better.
  5. Lastly, learn how to choose, because there are too many options being pushed at us to take advantage of any more than a few, so “choose well, Grasshopper.”

Congrats to Fast Company for pointing out the Digital Flood sweeping over our advertising agency industry. It’s just a lot bigger than that. And it’s much more than wet streets, jammed drains, and water in the basement.

Build Your Own Ark.

Noah’s Ark wasn’t built in day. It takes time, energy and focus to build an effective strategic plan for the future. Many agency leaders head off to a yearly planning session and year after year generate some sort of plan – one that quickly gets stuck on a shelf until the next planning session. It’s more effective if you bring the rest of the staff into the fold, energize and activate them to help create the agency of the future.

Start by taking a close look at where your agency is today. Next work with your leadership team and perhaps a few smart staff and adopt a vision for the future. A vision that will point to a new direction, with clear goals, and provide direction for the agency. We can’t stress the importance of articulating a clear vision on where your agency will thrive. There is no more powerful engine for driving an agency forward than an attractive, worthwhile vision of the future.

A strong vision is nothing more than a hollow shell without a leadership team that can get the agency staff to dedicate themselves to their vision. To do this the agency staff needs to be prepared for the changes that this new vision will demand. Most agencies wander from change effort to change effort without much success. Win the hearts and minds of your staff not by the command and control leadership techniques of the past but through careful planning, training and implementation that will give ownership of the vision to the entire agency, not just the management team.

Now is the time to develop a strategic mindset. As an agency leader, part of your responsibility needs to be strategic thinking. Your staff and clients are expecting you to be the visionary, the leader who can articulate what the future will hold, and who will have to confidence to see it through to the end.

Work with us to shape a strategic vision for your firm based on current realities and what’s best for you and your firm. Why not give Bob Sanders a call at 412.897.9329 and discuss the future of your agency?